Okay, I have a feeling I know what you’re about to say. But just in case, let me clarify. I have heard all of these before:
- “You just need to get some specially designed clothing.”
- “You should take up some outdoor sports, like skating or snowshoeing.”
- “But you get to wear all those plush, stylish sweaters!”
- “It makes you appreciate summer all the more.”
- “You can use your fireplace without guilt.”
- “All those warming stews and soups.”
- “The HH will be more likely to snuggle with you.”
- “You can break out the flannel sheets.”
- “Hot cocoa!”
- “You’re Canadian, it should be genetic.”
- “Just think of how beautiful it is to look at.”
Yes, all you Frosty-philes, I know all the ways I am supposed to “learn” to enjoy winter. I own top-notch, thinsulate-lined boots and long underwear. I wear Arctic-approved gloves and earmuffs. I wrap my scarf around my face in a manner reminiscent of a Brendan Fraser movie villain. I have tried skating, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing (forget about downhill–I can barely stay upright on the snowshoes). I drink cocoa, eat soup, wear sweaters, use flannel and snuggle with my HH throughout the season. I will always appreciate summer (with all of my heart) and don’t need no stinkin’ winter to provide contrast, thank you very much. And Canadian? Shmamadian! I must have missed the “I love winter” genes.
In fact, the only teeny, tiny, miniscule bit of positive I can find in the Dreaded Season of Ice and Snow is that it looks pretty. For about 48 seconds.
And after that, it sucks.
So, suffice it to say that
I despise the cold, I dread the slush, I abhor the ice, I shun the snow, I resent having to scrape the rime off my car windows, I can’t stand that it takes longer to get dressed for a dog walk than it does for the actual dog walk, I loathe being chilly even indoors, I curse that my glasses fog up, I begrudge having to wear a hat and the resulting hat-head, I detest that I have to watch where I walk or risk slipping and breaking a hip.
And I really, really, do not like it.
Hate or not, however, I live in Toronto, which has cold, snowy winters. Except for the saving grace of The Girls romping and gamboling in the snow whenever we get to the trail for a walk, I’d probably just stay inside for four months. If there is a visual expression of the word, “elation,” Chaser and Elsie, playing in the snow, is it.
“Thanks, Mum! We really have fun over there. And we appreciate that you take us every day even though you hate it. But you really should get down on the ground and wrestle with us. I bet you would enjoy winter much more that way.”
[It's rich and smooth, but coconut is not the most prominent flavor.]
Luckily, around Christmas time (one of the other few bright spots in the season), I discovered Peppermint Bark from Heather (of the legendary Heather Eats Almond Butter blog). My first attempt at the recipe followed Heather’s own almost exactly, and I posted it on my Facebook Page.
And yes, this is a dessert. Did you think I’d stop making (and eating) them after my recent whinge about gaining weight? Mais, pas de tout! No, I have not eliminated the sweet stuff (made with stevia) from my menus. In fact, I feel that I need to keep such treats in my diet now more than ever, if I am truly going to learn to tap into the physical messages of hunger and satiation. I’ll continue to eat all kinds of foods, in moderation, and redouble my efforts to stop and think–and pay attention–before I eat (and I’ll be chronicling my progress in that area as well; more on that coming up).
Since I first tried the recipe, I’ve continued to play with it, as I found the taste of concentrated coconut butter a bit much for my palate. I added some nuts and spices to create a firm-at-room-temperature, solid-when-refrigerated, impossible-to-resist version of chocolate bark, yet without any chocolate (of course, if you’re not limiting the stuff as I am, you can always sub chocolate or cacao nibs for the carob).
When the texture is refined in the blender, as I’ve done here, it becomes smooth, creamy and melty in the way that a good quality chocolate bar is melty. Even the HH proclaimed this to be a great snack (as he bit into his fourth piece). However, this bark is more akin to one made from white chocolate, with some additional goodies thrown in. It’s also a perfect high-energy snack or dessert, or a little sweet treat to set out on a tray when you’ve got people over on the weekend.
Because, you know, you won’t be going out much now that it’s winter.
This recipe is linked up to Amy’s weekly event, Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays. Check out all the other goodies over there (or submit your own), too!
[Freeform marbled pattern courtesy of natural coconut oils from the coconut, after they are chilled.]
Cinnamon Spiced Coconut Bark (ACD stage 1 and beyond)
inspired by Heather Eats Almond Butter
This bark makes a great substantial snack. By blending the coconut with the nuts until perfectly smooth, you are, in effect, mixing coconut butter with your nut butter, which will allow the mixture to retain its shape at room temperature. Containing healthy fats and a good protein content, this bark will satisfy your sweet tooth while tiding you over to the next meal. It’s good enough that you can serve it to friends, whether or not they follow a special diet.
2 cups (160 g) unsweetened, dried shredded coconut (or you can use 1 cup coconut butter)
1/2 cup (60 g) lightly toasted walnut halves
1/2 cup (85 g) lightly toasted natural almonds (with skin)
20-30 drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid, to your taste
1-1/2 tsp (7.5 ml) cinnamon
1 Tbsp (15 ml) carob powder
1/4 tsp (1 ml) cardamom
3/4 tsp (3.5 ml) ground ginger
1/4-1/3 cup (60-80 ml) unsweetened carob chips, unsweetened chocolate or cacao nibs, chopped
Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and set aside.
Place all ingredients except carob chips in a food processor and process until smooth and almost liquid (as if making nut butter). This will take up to 10 full minutes; scrape the sides occasionally as you do so. If you are okay with a fairly crunchy bark, you may omit the next step.
Next, for a smooth and creamy textured bark (this is what I did), place the already-pourable mixture into a high powered blender and blend until perfectly smooth and silky, so that no traces of coconut texture are visible (if you don’t have a high-powered blender, you can probably do this in small batches; transfer the batches to a medium bowl after each one). Once the mixture is perfectly smooth, transfer it to a medium bowl.
If the mixture is warm (it will likely get heated up from friction in the processor and blender), place it in the refrigerator and cool it to room temperature, stirring every 10 minutes or so (it will take about 30 minutes). Once it’s cooled, stir in the chopped carob chips. If you add them while the mixture is warm, the chips will simply melt and you’ll have carob bark, which is okay, too. Turn the mixture into the loaf pan and smooth the top.
Refrigerate or freeze until firm. Remove the bark by inverting the pan over a cutting board. Peel off the plastic and cut into desired shapes. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Makes about 12 servings. May be frozen.
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